As the school year begins, access to technology, including suitable devices for schoolwork and a sufficient broadband internet connection, is both a requirement for effective learning and a source of division in this new mode of mass education. Educational inequities become more acute when some children lack a dedicated device or have an inadequate internet connection. This digital divide compounds inequities and may have long-term consequences on educational outcomes.
Kidsdata.org now offers data on access to broadband-connected devices under the recently updated Housing Affordability and Resources topic. Access to technology varies greatly across California school districts. In districts with data, as few as 60% of children ages 0-17 live in households connected to high-speed internet through a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other computer, in 2014-2018.
Access in California also varies by demographic characteristics. In 2018,
- 84% of children in families living below the poverty threshold have access to a broadband-connected device compared with 96% of children in families living at 200% or above the poverty threshold
- 81% of children in limited English-speaking households have access to a broadband-connected device compared with 94% of children in English proficient households
- 90%-91% of Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native children have access to a broadband-connected device compared with 96%-97% of white and Asian American children
Efforts are underway to address students’ technology needs. Some districts are providing laptops and internet hotspots for students. Furthermore, The California Bridging the Digital Divide Fund, a joint effort of the Governor’s Office, State Board of Education, California Department of Education, and Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, offers a centralized set of resources to address the digital divide. These and other approaches to increase access to technology for all children can contribute to equity in education.